Churchill Fellow grows Australia's dried rose petal industry
12 Dec 2013
Sarah Sammon (nee Benjamin) was awarded the Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship in 2006 which saw her travel throughout the world to investigate the processing, packaging, marketing and storage of premium dried petals and their value adding potential for Australian flower growers.
Sarah's business Simply Rose Petals has just won the 2013 NSW Special Services category of the Australian Bridal Industry Awards for the second year running.
Read on to see how Sarah established her business and the high profile it has gained after providing all the petals for the recent Australian TV series of ‘The Bachelor’.
The following article appears courtesy of Horticulture Australia's Hortlink Magazine 2013/14 Summer Edition.
Confetti Cannons help shoot the success of Australia's dried rose petal industry sky high
After co-founding Australia's first rose petal farm, Simply Rose Petals, with her mother Jan Slater almost a decade ago, Sarah Sammon has successfully turned dried rose petals into a must-have feature of weddings held in Australia.
From designing personalised confetti cones that rose petals are thrown out of, to confetti cannons that shoot the petals up to 14 feet high, Sarah found her niche market and hasn’t looked back since.
“Today freeze dried rose petals, rose petal cones and cannons have become part of the modern Australian bride’s vernacular and we are proud to have played a large part in this,” Sarah said.
“We entered the industry with innovative products at a time when wedding ceremony and reception venues were banning traditional confetti because it caused staining and was not biodegradable. We saw the opportunity and went for it, despite everyone around us saying it wouldn’t work.
“Before setting up my business in 2004, I did some research online and discovered that dried rose petals were fast becoming popular with brides in the USA and UK as a biodegradable, non-staining replacement to traditional paper confetti and rice.
“I still remember our first bridal exhibition in Melbourne - almost 2,000 brides visited our stand and no-one had any idea how the rose petals were meant to be used.
“Through plenty of trial and error, and generally into the early hours of the morning, I came up with some unique ways to use the petals at weddings. Not only were brides delighted with the beauty and colour of our rose petals but they were fascinated by our cones and cannons.”
According to Sarah, making a success of the business involved a lot of dedication in the early years to gaining exposure and marketing opportunities.
“We promoted our rose petals heavily at bridal expos, online and in print media, educating thousands of brides about how to feature them at their wedding,” she said.
“We were also fortunate to have our petals used to help create romantic scenes on popular TV programs including Big Brother, The X Factor and The Bachelor, which really helped drive the popularity of rose petals.”
A 2006 Churchill Fellow and 2013 Nuffield Scholarship recipient, Sarah intends to use her research to assist the Australian rose petal industry in staying ahead of worldwide trends. Improving the packaging of fresh and freeze dried rose petals as well as diversification into other product lines such as edible and organic rose petals are the key areas Sarah will be researching.
“I’m hoping my ongoing research will inspire other Australian growers to keep striving to be world leaders and enhance the quality of product in the Australian market,” Sarah said. “Within our own business, as well as improving our packaging and marketing, I hope my scholarship will see us continue to be innovative and that we will be able to assess the financial viability of diversified products at a time when manufacturing in Australia is increasingly difficult.
“The Nuffield Scholarship has already been fabulous in exposing me to an incredible network of innovative farmers who inspire me every day. I am looking forward to developing my network further within Nuffield International and to horticulturalists worldwide.”
Since setting up Australia’s first rose petal farm at Swan Hill in Victoria, Sarah and her mother have enjoyed seeing other rose petal farms develop in Australia to form the bustling industry it is today. With the rapid increase in demand for rose petals in Australia, Sarah says many cut flower growers in Australia now have a secondary income thanks to the demand for their excess cut flowers.
“I believe Simply Rose Petals’ future growth will come from diversified products such as organic rose petals and rose oil as well as potential tourist attractions such as an on-farm cafe,” Sarah said.
“I put our ongoing success down to hard work and perseverance. I’m sure anyone involved in horticulture will tell you that the hours are long, especially during harvest, but if you persevere then the rewards will come.”